Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana - The Salt Pan Of The South

The Makgadikgadi Pan complex consists of two major pans, the Ntwetwe Pan and the Sua Pan. There are also a number of smaller pans around these two major plans. The Pan complex is located in Southern Africa, in the northeastern part of Botswana, southeast of the Okavango Delta.

It is one of the largest saltpans in the world and is situated within the Kalahari basin (The Kalahari is a semi desert plain which covers most parts of Southern Africa). For this reason, the pans have a harsh climate, with high diurnal and seasonal temperature ranges. The Kalahari basin also once held a big lake that spanned most of Bostwana. The most rainfall occurs between October and April and can measures between 400 and 600mm.

Three rivers fed the lake, they were: The Zambezi river, The Okavango river, and the Chobe river. However, formation of various faults on the southern part of the East African Rift Valley cut off the flow of these rivers to the lake and caused it to dry up. The Ntwetwe and Sua Pan area were the areas of the lake that had the most depth.

Two rivers that flow into the Makgadikadi Pans complex include the Boteti River and the Nata River. However low rainfall means the Boteti River has not flowed into the Ntwetwe pans in 10 years. However the Nata River is more reliable with its outflow and flows into the Sua Pan.

The dominant plant in the Makgadikgadi Pan is the blue green algae which covers the surface during rainy season. There is also the Sporobolus spicatus and the spiny grass Odyssea paucinervis. The climate is unsuitable for animals.

Around the pans, in the grasslands, animals like tortoises, monitors, snakes, lizards inhabit the area. The pans are devoid of birds except ostriches and Kittlitz plover. Human population is low and the Pans are mainly uninhabited.

Today, uncontrolled tourism is a major threat to the pans as sightseeing parties, motorbikes and vehicles disturb the fauna of the Pans. Also potential water diversion from the Nata River could result in the drying up of the Nata Delta which is an essential survival area for waterbirds in the area. Overgrazing and Illegal hunting is also a threat in the surrounding grasslands.

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